The Women Working With The Border Road Organisation Are Truly Inspiring

Mar 8, 2022, 14:38 IST


Capt Aina Rana briefing the DGBR, Lt Gen Rajeev Chaudhry, VSM at the worksite

Women who build roads and more… The women working with the Border Road Organisation are truly inspirational

Whether you are in the remote and far-flung areas of Ladakh or the upper reaches of Uttarakhand or the North East, apart from the natural beauty and the challenging terrain, one common factor you will find is a strong presence of the BRO, or Border Roads Organisation. You will be familiar with their smart signboards warning citizens about bends in the winding roads and asking them to be cautious for their own safety. One of the slogans on their many catty and funny hoardings reads, “BRO can construct roads anywhere, (the) sky is the limit.” And that is truly the case. The organisation is at the forefront of infrastructure development, constructing roads, bridges, tunnels and airfields in the remote border areas of the country.

Vaishali Hiwase at the Bailey Bridge site

While the BRO leads the way, literally, when it comes to motorable roads in the country, there is another aspect in which it has taken a significant step forward. Gender equality is an aspect that is being carefully considered, with women being progressively inducted into the workforce over the years. The number of women now working with the BRO is over 400, and, interestingly, over 200 of them work out in the field, in the remotest parts of the country, proving their worth. Women officers, both from the Indian Army and the General Reserve Engineering Force (GREF), are now being positioned in command assignments. These women – officers, subordinate staff and casual paid labourers (CPLs) – work shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts, proving, once again, that gender is not a hindrance if one has the will and passion. Exclusively women-led and women-composed teams have also been created within the organisation, not only leading to a sense of cohesiveness but also lending a sense of identity to these team members.

BRO broke a few barriers last year when Officer Vaishali S Hiwase took over the reins of a Road Construction Company (RCC) on a very difficult Indo-Tibetan Road in a challenging terrain in Uttarakhand. “As a leader, it is a challenge to keep the morale high of the officers, men and labourers deployed in such tough terrain,” she says. “One aspect that requires continuous effort is to keep the vehicle and equipment on the road, as limited technical support is possible in such isolated areas.”

In a first, an all-women workforce de-launching a bridge

Last year, Major Aaina Rana of Project Shivalik took over as Officer in Command of an RCC at Pipalkoti in Chamoli district. She is the first Indian Army Engineer Officer to command an exclusively all-women RCC, the first of its kind in which all members are women. Assisting her are three Platoon Commanders, Captain Anjana, Bhawana Joshi and Vishnumaya K. The terrain where Major Rana works is subject to harsh weather conditions, reducing effective working time, which directly affects the Chardham Pariyojna Project on which her RCC is deployed. “Extreme weather conditions lead to frequent landslides, and cloud bursts and snow also make work execution very demanding,” the officer says. She adds that, at times, her team is required to carry out rescue operations for stranded civilians during avalanches, landslides and other natural calamities.

Women working on the Sela Tunnel Project

It does not end there! Women have also shown interest in undertaking physically laborious work, and they are working on the de-launching of equipment bridges, road construction and road maintenance, notwithstanding the challenges of the environment or the remoteness of the area, whether in Uttarakhand, Arunachal Pradesh, Ladakh, or Jammu & Kashmir. For instance, when the Raini Bridge on the Joshimath-Malari Road and the Rishi Ganga Power Project in Uttarakhand were wiped out due to a glacial lake outburst flood, the communication link to the Indo-China Border roads was disrupted. Engineer Vishnumaya K coordinated the movement of stores and necessary equipment from nearby locations for search, relief and restoration work. She immersed herself in the planning and coordination to restore the link immediately. In another instance, CPL Pushpa Devi worked tirelessly to protect the abutment and approach road of the Charigad Bridge on Jauljibi Munsiyari Road in Uttarakhand during the monsoon in 2020, as did CPL Sunita Devi following the heavy monsoon rains in Joshimath in June 2021.

Women CPLs like Pushpa Devi make a significant contribution

Even in other demanding official responsibilities too, women have come to the fore. Col Navneet Duggal, currently the senior-most woman officer in the BRO, is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of heavy machinery and equipment, while Lt Col Snigdha Sharma is in charge of handling court cases on service matters. Her team, under her able guidance, handles these with a sense of urgency, dedication and promptness. Sherly PT is another woman employee who has performed her duties with exceptional commitment.

And it is not just individual brilliance. In an unprecedented development, Obing Taki, commanding a RCC in Arunachal Pradesh along with her deputy Capt Saina Chib, has to her credit the accomplishment of successfully de-launching a Bailey Bridge, not once but twice! And, on both occasions, the physically demanding task was achieved by an all-woman task force. Kudos, too, to women such as Sushila Naika, a local from Arunachal Pradesh, who epitomises the spirit of nari shakti, motivating and encouraging others to achieve something literally un-thought of. Women are also working on the prestigious Sela Tunnel Project. With women officers being deployed in taxing and difficult assignments, the BRO is truly succeeding in its goal of women empowerment. Here’s hoping other organisations, too, take the cue.

Also read: Indian Air Force Set To Have More Women Fighter Pilots